Good looking emails are killing your customer conversations

Why the perfect shape of a message to trigger conversations with your users is a raw text email.

Giuliano Iacobelli
Jun 9, 2014 · 3 min read

As a founder you constantly look to optimize your product so you run faster, make it look better and try to have it going viral. But none of this can happen unless you get feedback from your most valuable asset: Your users.

The reasons why you should care so much about it would be out of scope for this post and is very well explained here by Carlos Espinal (@cee).

When you start collecting the very first few thousands of users you can start experiment all that fancy growth hacking stuff and super cool geeky tools to track their behaviors and their information, to cluster them on your favorite criteria, to collect more data from external services and so on.

That’s great to have useful insights but nothing is worth more than constantly communicating with them. That’s why we’ve seen the rise of tools for managing users lifecycle with “lifecycle emails” like, or Mixpanel. The purpose of these tools is to rely less on mailing blasts and more on sending the right email to the right person at the right time to let you engage your users.

You need to rely on their capabilities to easily show how your users behave but in my experience they are not the go-to solution when it comes to get in touch with ‘em. And what is the reason for this? By default, they all send good looking emails.

People get blasted by emails all day long, newsletter or Mailchimp-like templates are everywhere and, as a consequence, users started developing some patterns of recognition when in front of their emails: if pattern matches they quickly skim the content and trash the email. Maybe a catchy headline can help gaining a couple of seconds of attention but a good designed newsletter (9 out of 10 times a commercial proposal or a deal-like thing).

Using these tools easily put your communications in a matching condition for that patterns, even when product like sends email on your behalf (and users actually receive a mail by “you”) it just doesn’t look like a simple poor styled email you would have created inside your Gmail. The content can be as much personal as you want but it is very likely that users will not pay enough attention to realize that.

I’ll be pragmatic with this one, using Intercom and triggering 4,500 automatic email with a personal message for a specific segment of user and triggered on specific conditions: 1% replied.

Same logic, but only 110 raw text email with the same kind of personal message sent from my personal Gmail account: in less than 24 hours later I got 26 replies and established conversation ready to take off. 23% of replies. That’s quite a good improvement, isn’t it?

Before starting with all the A/B testing stuff with content and segments think about rule number one: You’re talking to humans and those humans like to talk to other humans.

It sounds so simple and obvious but it took me several months to realize this. Raw text emails help you to better engage your users when you need to establish a real conversation. And don’t take me wrong, this doesn’t mean that you need to stop using the aforementioned tools to address large number of contacts but get rid of templates if you are sending messages to trigger conversations with your users.

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